The smartphone market seemed so much simpler ten years ago.
Executives had a BlackBerry. Hipsters had an iPhone. Brand loyalists had a Sony or Samsung. And pretty much everyone else had a Nokia.
Today, the market has fragmented into two distinct categories – Apple, and everyone else.
The relative merits of Apple’s iOS and Google-powered Android are hotly contested, but the sheer diversity of Android-powered devices represents both a blessing and a curse.
On the upside, there’s far more choice in terms of handset features and software, from expandable memory and camera lens choice through to specific versions of Android’s OS.
On the downside, choosing an Android phone is far from straightforward.
It’s especially complex given the current swathe of new handset manufacturers who’ve emerged in recent years.
To explain whether these products deserve your consideration when looking for a new handset, we’ve investigated who the newest handset manufacturers are, and what they offer…
Chinese telecommunications manufacturer Huawei arrived on the public’s radar with a bang, when it launched the highly-respected P20 Pro back in March.
Yet the world’s second-largest smartphone brand effectively withdrew from the American market after the FBI, CIA and NSA raised concerns about unspecified security risks.
Even so, Huawei’s market share rose in Europe with innovations like the P20’s three camera lenses, overlaying colour and black-and-white images to deliver impressive low-light photos.
The Huawei smartphone range is initially confusing – the Mate 20 Pro, the P20 Pro, the P20 Lite and so forth – but its products topped a recent reliability scorecard published by Which?
The third-best brand in Which?’s reliability index was another Chinese firm, OnePlus, which actually ranked top for customer satisfaction in the same survey.
Unlike Huawei, whose origins date back to the 1980s, OnePlus was founded five years ago this month.
The latest generation of its smartphone (the 6) went on sale earlier this year, with the larger 6T variant released a few weeks ago.
Some users may find this handset too large to hold comfortably, but the 6 range does offer an impressive screen and strong battery life at a reasonable price.
As a subsidiary of Huawei, Honor is regarded as the budget derivative of its parent brand.
Like OnePlus and Apple, its phones are numerically ordered, with the 10 and View 10 representing Honor in the smartphone sector.
While its handsets miss out on waterproofing or premium speakers, Honor’s phones do seem to offer impressive value for money.
Competitive pricing is supported by the company’s decision not to establish a retail presence like some brands – instead trading online and selling its products through third-party retailers.
Many people still consider Google to be nothing more than a search engine, despite an expanding roster of consumer electronics products.
While Google Home and its Mini sibling are growing in popularity, the Californian giant’s breakthrough product is the Pixel phone.
Now into its third generation, the Pixel has been described as the best Android handset to date by some industry observers.
Crucially, it’s also among the first handsets to receive the latest version of Android. Pixel 3 owners get to use the cutting-edge features of Android Pie, launched earlier this year.
Xiaomi (pronounced sh-how-me) is the third Chinese company on this list, and the world’s fourth-largest handset manufacturers.
Like Honor, it competes towards the lower end of the market, though it would be easy to mistake these Android handsets for any other company’s products.
Xiaomi has gained relatively little market share in the UK, though you can buy 16GB and 64GB devices with NFC and Android Pay technologies integrated.
New handsets remain on sale for long periods of time, which means newly-purchased phones may be out of date. On the other hand, there’s less pressure on buyers to upgrade every year.
Not to be confused with the eponymous rock singer, Doro is a Swedish consumer electronics manufacturer which launched its first smartphone five years ago.
Doro specialise in budget handsets for older customers, manufacturing phones whose specifications wouldn’t have seemed cutting-edge five years ago.
However, older buyers often prioritise simplicity and practicality over the presence of in-screen fingerprint sensors, or bezel-free surrounds.
Typical specifications might be basic, but Doro phones will run Android Nougat, with voice commands supported via Google Assistant.